De Jonge: Possible that next relaxations will happen earlier than planned
Following the Dutch government’s decision to go ahead with the coronavirus relaxations on May 19, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told the press that it was “certainly conceivable” that the next stage of relaxations would take place earlier than planned.
The Dutch government's plan for lifting lockdown
According to the government’s five-step plan, the third phase of lifting lockdown would see restaurants and bars open, as well as theatres, cinemas, and museums. The public would also be granted more freedom to meet with friends and family.
While the plan initially stated that this step would be taken on May 26, the decision to delay step two by one week means that the next coronavirus press conference isn’t expected to take place until June 1. This means the relaxations would likely come into effect on June 9 at the earliest.
Next relaxations could take place before June 9
But on Monday, De Jonge said there could be some hope for the step to be taken before June 9 if coronavirus hospital admissions continue to fall at the current rate. “Now things are moving in the right direction in hospitals,” he said. “But we are not there yet. If we want the decline to continue rapidly, we must continue to stick to the rules.”
While he outlined no specific goal, De Jonge did say that the R-number would have to fall slightly in order for restrictions to be lifted. According to the corona dashboard, the R-number is currently 0,95, which means that a group of 100 people infected with coronavirus usually infect a further 95.
Effect of vaccinations on coronavirus in the Netherlands
De Jonge also highlighted the role that the ongoing vaccination campaign played when it came to the next stage of relaxations. “What we are seeing now is that [the drop in hospitalisations] is mainly an effect of vaccination,” he said. So far, almost 7,5 million jabs have been administered, and De Jonge still hopes to have everyone receive at least the first jab by the beginning of July.
In spite of this progress, the Health Minister was adamant that there remained much progress to be made: “There are currently still over 145.000 contagious people in the Netherlands. Let’s not pretend we are already there.”